- 05 Dec 12
Back to basics… again.
Million-dollar mansions and twentysomething boyfriends aside, life in 2012 must be tough for titanic noughties sirens like Christina Aguilera who can still remember a time when being a singer mostly involved singing, wearing slinky outfits and winking at photographers. Back in that glorious age, you knew you had a hit on the way just by looking in the mirror. There were no blogs to worry about. No reality TV talent shows. No turning followers into fortunes. And you certainly didn’t have to advertise dodgy psychic websites in your music videos.
Thanks to Aguilera’s failure to hop on board the pop culture bandwagon, her last album was a cataclysmic failure, at least in comparison to its sensational predecessor, which sold more copies in its first week than the heavily motorised Bionic shifted outright (YouTube views of album tracks from Back To Basics also trump those of Bionic’s biggest hit tenfold).
Christina has since dubbed her one-and-only back catalogue flop “ahead of its time” but the truth is, it doesn’t matter whether the four-octave diva was charging forward or holding back. The bottom line is, her foray into musical robotics did nothing to make the average pop consumer’s skirt fly up.
Lotus, I’m glad to say, is a perfect example of how safer can sometimes be better. A chart-friendly mash-up of chest-clutching ballads and sassy synth stompers, it finds Aguilera in default mode, which, if you can forgive her insatiable appetite for melisma, is pretty spectacular.
If Lotus harks back to any of Aguilera’s previous tomes, it’s 2002’s sentimental circus Stripped. ‘Fighter’-era Aguilera reappears on military-referencing nu disco stompers ‘Cease Fire’ and ‘Army Of Me’, while club-ready raunchfests like ‘Red Hot Kinda Love’ and ‘Your Body’ call to mind smutty bump-and-grindathon ‘Dirrty’, albeit in tamer form.
As far as glass-breaking weepies go, Lotus contains some of Aguilera’s best. ‘Blank Page’, co-written with Zero 7’s Sia Furler, is an Adele-sized tear-jerker, and our warbling mistress of ceremonies pours her heart out on ‘Sing For Me’, a song about how much she likes singing songs.
Far less impressive are two remarkably lazy collaborations with Aguilera’s co-stars from The Voice: Cee-Lo Green’s otherworldly pipes are totally wasted on ‘Make The World Move’, while country star Blake Shelton sounds utterly out of place, even on a whiskey-soaked ballad like ‘Just A Fool’.
Throughout her journey from Mickey Mouse Club to nightclub, Aguilera has been guilty of cramming too many styles into a single album, just as she crams too many notes into words like ‘oh’ and ‘baby’, but, hey, Lotus is still as fiery and eager-to-please as mainstream pop records come.